It’s Getting to be That Time of Year Again — Flu Season!

 

Welcome back to the Corner. With students back to school and the fall season upon us, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the flu.

Everyone is aware that the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. While A and B are the major virus types, there are different strains within both types that can cause illness. Each year, flu vaccines are prepared to protect against strains that have been identified as having the potential to be the most common during the upcoming season. Both the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommend vaccination for everyone aged 6 months and older.

Over the years there have been some changes in vaccines, both in how they are produced and the protection they offer. Vaccines can now be produced using cell-based techniques and/or recombinant technology. As some of these newer technologies utilize procedures that do not use any egg-based components, they offer safer alternatives for people severely allergic to eggs. Flu vaccines are now offered in both trivalent (3-strain) and quadrivalent (4-strain) versions, with the quadrivalent offering more protection due to inclusion of an additional strain. Also, some vaccines contain an “adjuvant” which helps the body’s immune system mount an increased response to the vaccine.

Please see below for the most common injectable vaccines, along with their type (trivalent/quadrivalent), and other pertinent information:

Vaccine Trivalent / Quadrivalent Manufacturing Process Additional Notes
Afluria®, Fluarix®, FluLaval®, Fluzone® Quadrivalent Egg-grown
Flucelvax® Quadrivalent Cell-based
Fluad® Trivalent Egg-grown Adjuvanted vaccine
Fluzone-HD® Trivalent Egg-grown
Flublok® Quadrivalent Recombinant

The vaccine is not 100% effective, so it is important to take additional measures to reduce the spread of the flu:

Wash
Thorough and frequent hand-washing can help prevent the transfer of infection. Always wash your hands before eating. Hand sanitizer is a good alternative if soap and water is unavailable.

Contain
Be sure to cover your mouth when you cough and/or sneeze. Always use a tissue or your inner elbow.

Avoid

  • Avoiding a crowd during peak flu season can help reduce the risk of getting the flu. The virus spreads very easily in schools, office buildings, and on public transportation.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Do not share your food, drink, or utensils with others.
  • If you are feeling sick, do your best to stay home.

Treatment
For most people, the flu clears up on its own. Ways to ease your symptoms include:

  • Using a decongestant for nasal or sinus congestion.
  • Using an antihistamine to help with sneezing, itching, and nasal discharge.
  • Using cough medicine. Ask your pharmacist which combination, if any, would be appropriate for your cough.
  • Using an over-the-counter pain reliever for fever and body aches. (Remember: children should avoid aspirin.)
  • Drinking lots of fluids and using salt water gargles as well as over-the-counter medicated lozenges to soothe a sore throat.

Please consider getting your flu shot. It not only protects you from getting sick, but also those around you. The vaccine, in most cases, is readily available at pharmacies, health clinics, and physician offices — often at little or no cost to you. Get the shot, not the flu.

Thanks for stopping in and see you next month.